2010-02-04 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

A Job During Which You Better Not Fall Asleep
By Charles Rogers

The story that came out last week about the security guard at LaGuardia Airport who was caught napping in the terminal while in uniform, didn’t seem to be such a big deal. I mean, security guards usually work long hours and, usually, during those “off hours” the eyes are conducive to drooping in the middle of the night.

In other words, catching a person snoozing off while on duty would normally be a small thing: he or she would get a reprimand, probably a slap on the wrist for the first episode, and then something stricter if there happened to be a second remission.

But wait. This offense happened to be at an international airport. And this guard was working for the Transportation Security Administration, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security. And at this volatile time in our nation’s history, just after we’d been put on higher alert because an idiot terrorist decided he’d light his underpants and blow up an airliner over Detroit, this guard decided she’d take a break and fall asleep in front of hundreds of passengers and visitors in the terminal. Not a good idea.

Now, I’m sure she didn’t just say to herself, while stretching her arms widely, “Ho hum, I think I’ll curl up on that chair over there in front of the newsstand. That looks comfy.” On the other hand, I’m not too sure. Yes, she might have been on a break, for that matter, but they have special rooms where guards can take a break.

In light of the almost-disaster of the guy trying to blow up the plane over Detroit, and in light of the incident a week or so later where a guy broke through a line so he could give his girlfriend an extra goodbye kiss and they had to evacuate Newark Airport for more than four hours — and IN LIGHT OF TERRORISTS IN OUR MIDST WHO WANT TO SEE ALL OF US KILLED, it seemed that authorities treated the case too lightly — much too lightly — afterwards.

Critics (me included) have said that the case is revealing, inasmuch as there is an “attitude” that certain things aren’t important in the long run. One newspaper report indicated the guard in this case apparently hadn’t been on the job very long. None of the guards stay very long because the pay is very low — something like $23,000 a year, if that much — and the hours are long and the work “hard and tedious.”

Yeah, well —a lot of people don’t get paid a helluva lot and their work is hard and tedious, but you don’t see them flop down in the nearest chair and drop off to sleep because of it. Some people have character and are conscientious enough to stay awake during their work shift. Some people would be eternally grateful to have a job that pays that much and where they have a roof over their heads and…hey, maybe they’re even grateful to have a job at all.

There are always extenuating circumstances, of course. But nowadays, overlooking even the smallest of items in a suitcase or not seeing something you’ve been trained to see could lead to a catastrophe. Maybe that Home Security outfit could take another look at the low pay they’re giving their employees so workers who have to work two jobs to make ends meet won’t be so sleepy; and maybe they could shift a few shifts around to accommodate those weary workers and their long hours.

Maybe they should look at the people in management and find out why shifts are long and pay is short. Maybe the management people haven’t been doing their jobs properly and they’ve been letting those workers who really can’t cut it “get by” with a slipshod interview.

There are a lot of terrorists — suicide bombers — who are just dying to get through that line at the airport. And they’re just dying to get on a plane with lots and lots of passengers.

All it takes is one sleepy security guard…

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